When Kyle Weatherman was 8 years old, he told himself that one day, he’d be in a position to make an impact in his community and on those around him. Now, he’s made those aspirations come true, not only by becoming one of the brightest young talents in motorsports, but also by standing up and showing his support for law enforcement. Last June, Weatherman, a full-time NASCAR Xfinity driver for Mike Harmon Racing, proudly debuted a “Back the Blue” paint scheme on his car for the Dixie Vodka 250 race in Florida, including a thin blue line flag across the hood and the hashtag #BacktheBlue along the side.
Every April, we honor the public safety members who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and provide lifesaving assistance to citizens in times of crisis. The idea of an annual event to show appreciation for these personnel actually has its roots in California — begun by Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher Patricia Anderson in 1981, it soon spread across the country until President Bill Clinton officially proclaimed the second week of April as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in 1994.
To sum up the current circumstances of peace officers and their unions, Messing Adam & Jasmine LLP (MAJ) references an apt line from the 1973 song “Stuck in the Middle With You,” by Scottish singers Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.” Law enforcement faces attacks from those on the political left who want to erode their due process, free speech and collective bargaining rights, as well as from those on the right who seek to reduce their wages and pensions. As officers find themselves stuck in the middle between these opposing forces, they’re fortunate to have MAJ by their side as a powerful ally, working to protect them and their rights.
Going above and beyond to help his brothers and sisters in law enforcement is all in a day’s work for South San Joaquin Chapter Director Ryan Maxwell, who believes dedication to a higher cause is a crucial part of his leadership role. “Directors must have the opinion that law enforcement is not a job,” he explains. “This is not just a paycheck; this is a profession, and a profession must maintain high standards, not only for our own safety but also for the public.”
Over 2,500 bills have been introduced this year. This number is much higher than we anticipated, considering the restrictions and limitations placed on legislators with regard to how many bills they are allowed to move to the other house. Of the bills introduced, PORAC is tracking nearly 200 that could potentially have an impact on law enforcement officers or the safety of the communities in which they serve. Of those 200 bills tracked, PORAC has currently taken an oppose or support position on 80 measures (and counting). This is a record high for PORAC in the first year of a two-year session — showing that the shortened legislative session, limitation on bills and effects of COVID-19 have not slowed down legislative priorities related to policing issues, reform and criminal justice.
The weather was unseasonably warm in Washington as February turned to March, and Congress was perhaps unseasonably productive. On March 11, President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a massive COVID-19 relief bill that represents a major achievement for the new president. The American Rescue Plan was passed through the “budget reconciliation” process in order to circumvent the 60-vote filibuster and snuck through Congress on a series of party-line votes. Vice President and former California Senator Kamala Harris was on hand to cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie, but her intervention eventually proved unnecessary for the bill’s final passage.
They make up roughly 11% of peace officers in the United States. They have to overcome discrimination in the field, are thought by some to be “too weak” or “too emotional” to succeed in leadership positions, and often face stress and burnout due to bias, harassment and lack of acceptance. Yet, through it all, women in law enforcement continue to excel in handling hostile situations without excessive force, improving community–police relations and pushing law enforcement toward being a more diverse and united profession.
Since joining PORAC more than 22 years ago, Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association (SCLEA) Director-at-Large Damian Evans’ leadership has been put to the test on numerous occasions. But thanks to his team-first attitude and fiery passion for the law enforcement profession, Evans and the SCLEA board of directors have successfully fought against unfair measures and anti-police attacks in order to put law enforcement first.
Amid all the chaos brought on by 2020, one of the bright spots from this past year was the formation of PORAC’s Statewide Chapter, made up of eight state associations. Part of the chapter’s charm, President Yolanda Abundiz says, comes from the fact that “we’re all from varying fields and not centrally located, but can all come together and work collaboratively toward a common goal for our membership.”
February 19 marked the legislative deadline for all new bills to be introduced. While this deadline provides us with an overview of the issues we will be facing, we are always guaranteed new surprises and challenges, as bills are continuously being amended to change the course and impact of the legislation. It is rare for a bill to make it to the governor’s desk in its original form.